President Karis on Estonian Independence Day: Each of Us Is the Estonian State

Dear people of Estonia.

Firstly, of course – congratulations! I wish you well on the birthday of the Republic of Estonia! That is the reason for us celebrating here and in countless homes in Estonia and much farther afield.

In January, I asked students to write essays on the topic: “Why does the world need Estonia?” It’s a question for adults to consider as well. Merje Meerits, a teacher at the Tallinn Polytechnic School, sent me her students’ submissions with a covering letter. I’ll read you an excerpt: “…as every individual is a world, I certainly need Estonia to be able to speak Estonian without fear or shame, to eat black bread, and to live free on my native soil.”

Yes – every individual is a world. These worlds create yet another that we all share; one where we all coexist. Like being in the same boat.

But not a boat standing still, because those who remain motionless opt to come in last.

We were in a great hurry when we joined the European Union and NATO. Afterward, it felt like we had time to rest a spell. No longer. Hasty days have returned.

Security. Welfare. Maintaining the foundations of democracy. Education. Health. Environment. Innovation and economic growth. Relations between the state and its citizens. Perseverance as a state and a people.

These are touchstones that will determine Estonia’s future if we manage them swiftly.

Therefore, if we wish to truly help ourselves, then we must foster the inner conviction that faithfulness to our land, our people, our language, our culture, and our uniqueness is the only way forward. If we lack that sense for truth, then we are like a heap of sand scattered by a gust or smoke that dissipates in the sky.

Yet, people are not grains of sand and Estonia is not dissipating smoke. We must be tenacious and flexible; inventive and audacious. We must continue to be everything that helped Estonia rise and become an inseparable part of the West anew.

However, we are not connected to Europe by a modern highway or a high-speed railway. I’ll leave air connections aside for now. And if we simply sit and watch the sunset, carefree like August Gailit’s character Toomas Nipernaadi, then the sun will set, and we will still lack those highways and railways. High-speed connections of all kinds to the north, west, south, and internally should be a component of our strategic intention to avoid being peripheralized at the end of the free world.


Each and every one of us is the Estonian state. Abroad and within Estonia’s borders alike, we are all together.

Or, as Juri Lotman said:

“We must live . . . in a human world that forces upon us the agony of choice, inevitable errors, and the greatest level of responsibility, but on the other hand also grants us conscience, genius, and all that makes a human human.”

All together in the same boat, my dear friends. The good and the bad, the righteous and the wicked, those of various nationalities, those of various faiths.

All together. Through arguments and debates alike, as such arguments and debates are obligatory.

Believing in Estonia, and in service of Estonia.

Happy Estonian Independence Day!

Full text of the speech is available here:

Source: Office of the President of the Republic